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Algeria 1982: From laughter to tears
As part of our Saga Africa series, The Africa Report takes a look at
memorable African moments from World Cup history. In 1982 Algeria beat
Germany but the team was unjustly booted out of the competition.
“We were taken for a ride,” recalls coach Rachid Mekloufi of one of the biggest disappointments of the 1982 World Cup. “Germany and Austria had agreed to block our path.” This is the sad story of a great team that deserved to go much further but found themselves locked out of the latter stages of the competition.
Led by the former Saint Etienne player, Algeria launched into their Spanish World Cup against European champions West Germany on 16 June 1982.
After an uninspiring first half, Rabah Madjer – nicknamed the “heel kicker” for his amazing European final goal – opened the score. Thirteen minutes later, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge equalised. A minute later, Lakhdar Belloumi – Ballon d’Or 1981 – put Algeria ahead again.
To this day, Mekloufi waxes lyrical about that moment: “To us that goal marked Algeria’s victory. It was the most beautiful moment ever in Algerian football, in our history! The footballing world was dumbstruck. The joy we brought Algerians with that goal will remain for-ever engraved in my memory. We made World Cup history.”?
Still euphoric, the team moved on to an inglorious 2-0 defeat against Austria. “To my players, the World Cup ended for them after that match,” ?recalls Mekloufi.?
Algeria’s third match in Spain had seen an impressive 3-2 victory against Chile. But still their qualification for the knock-out round depended on the outcome of West Germany-Austria, on 25 June. It was a parody of a match, in which slow-motion ?Austria appeared to allow the West Germans to walk all over them. The 1-0 score lost it for Algeria on goals.
In an interview 15 years ?later, West Germany’s Hans-Peter Briegel denied a stitch-up but ?nevertheless apologised. “I am sorry because they deserved to qualify after ?having delivered such great football. There wasn’t an agreement between us and the Austrians. We just stopped trying after the first goal because we had reached our objective.”?
Since the Spain debacle over ?Algeria’s missed qualification, the World Cup playing schedule has been altered so that the last group-stage matches are all played on the same day, at the same time, to avoid any suspicion of foul play – and avoid any more tragedies.